Robert Forke

Robert Forke

Last session was an exciting step within the dramaturgy of the seminar as we went deeper into questions of how art production and performance was intertwined with the performative act of feasting in the later Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Listening to several polyphonic songs live that may very well and in the case of Je ne voy onques la pareille certainly have been performed during feasts we had the chance to compare the hermeneutic act of reading a partly puzzling eye-witness account of the Feast of the Pheasant with experiencing the sound of the voices, their reverberation and the bodily presence of the performers. The allusion to Gumbrechtian terms is intended although our seminar shows, in my opinion, that understanding the communal act of feasting as major cultural expression of late medieval elite life entails exploring the constant interaction of performance and semiosis.

Apart from our discussion about the practical realization of a pie containing a whole ensemble of musicians and a model of a stag with a singer in it (or a singer somehow disguised as a white stag), it is striking how entremets seem to have been designed to blend sensory experiences in that they combine auditive and visual and potentially also olfactory and gustatory experiences. Even if no one ate the pie in which the musicians played it still embeds the enjoyment of a musical piece in a context evoking pleasures for the palate.

Another question that I have asked myself after our session was to what extent we can as see festive practices as catalyzers of certain art forms, genres, etc. Cummings seems to suggest in his article that classicizing tendencies in Italy led to favoring vocal pieces sung by one singer rather than polyphonic ones in the 15th century and I wonder not only whether this particular suggestion holds, but also in which contexts similar arguments could possibly be made.

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